MANCHESTER, May 24- Frank Lampard marked his final game in English football in triumphant fashion as the Manchester City star’s goal ensured the deposed champions ended the Premier League campaign with a 2-0 victory over Southampton on Sunday.
With Sergio Aguero adding a late second goal at Eastlands, Manuel Pellegrini’s second placed team secured a sixth consecutive victory, a strong end to an erratic season for City and their Chilean manager, who is expected to hold imminent talks with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak over his and the club’s future.
Lampard, making his final English league appearance nearly 20 years and almost 900 domestic games after his first, took just over half an hour to open the scoring.
It was the 259th goal of his domestic career and, like so many of those that came before it, saw the 36-year-old former Chelsea midfielder in precisely the right place at the right time following a flowing City attack.
David Silva fed the ball wide to James Milner whose accurate, first-time cross reached Lampard unmarked eight yards from goal and the veteran produced an unstoppable finish.
City wrapped up the points two minutes from time after a Jesus Navas shot was deflected high into the air and headed back across goal by Eliaquim Mangala for Aguero to nod over the line from point-blank range.
The events of the first half marked a fitting way for Lampard to say farewell to the Premier League before his move to the MLS and New York City, although the home supporters at Eastlands were possibly more interested in the fates of two other City midfielders.
The futures of Yaya Toure and Milner are the subject of speculation, but both played their respective parts in an entertaining and open final game of the season.
– Magnificent block –
Toure set off on a breathtaking run deep from his own half after 37 minutes and eventually squared a pass, misjudged by Jose Fonte, for Aguero to force a flying, reflex stop from goalkeeper Kelvin Davis.
Earlier, Toure had sped away from Steven Davis to set up an attack which allowed David Silva to send Aguero clear, although the Argentina forward’s shot was uncharacteristically well off the mark.
Then a Toure shot, from just inside the area, was parried by Davis although the Southampton keeper made up for that slight error by producing a magnificent block to deny Aguero, who finishes as the league’s top scorer, as he looked certain to net the rebound from six yards.
The period of City dominance followed a bright opening from the visitors, whose best chance to claim the opening goal had come after 20 minutes when Shane Long skipped past Pablo Zabaleta before his low shot was stopped by Joe Hart.
Graziano Pelle, such an impressive performer for the Saints this season, had a chance to level before the interval but shot wide from 15 yards after Milner had halted Long’s advance.
Pelle also produced an audacious flying back heel which fizzed wide from a Sadio Mane cross soon after the interval.
Lampard, with a far-post header from a Milner cross which lacked any real power to trouble Davis, offered City a brief respite from Southampton’s improved second half play.
But the visitors, for all their pressure, were struggling to convert possession into chances, with Long steering a weak shot directly at Hart after a James Ward-Prowse attack broke down on the edge of the area after 67 minutes.
Mane and Long both failed to test Hart with weak efforts that were comfortably saved by the England goalkeeper.
Fittingly, Pellegrini ended Lampard’s afternoon after 76 minutes, allowing the Premier League legend to enjoy a standing ovation from a packed English stadium for one last time.